The organizer of a free-speech rally planned for May 29 in Phoenix AZ claims that he and his family have become the subject of death threats. John Ritzheimer is organizing local citizens, including motorcycle enthusiasts, to demonstrate their support of Constitutiohally-protected speech by encouraging local citizens to draw cartoons of Muhammed – the founder of Islam – and then present the results to mosque in Phoenix as local Muslims arrive to pray. In a May 28 statement, Ritzheimer said "Credible threats being made and now having to move my family into hiding. Real nice Islam. Thank you for showing your true colors. I have not made any threats nor do I condone any threats. I've been preaching peace this whole time and once again Islam shows its lack of tolerance for others freedom. I will say that I think this cartoon contest is completely stupid, but this is all to show what Islam is about. The only one threatening with violence and that has a track record of it is them. Rally going on as planned."
Phoenix police chief Joe Yahner said that he is coordinating plans for crowd control at the scene. Yahner said that as of the evening hours on May 28, the police department had not received any threats. More meetings are planned in advance of the rally, said Yahner, who added that intelligence related to the rally is still coming in. He stated that his department is cooperating with the Federal government and other agencies to ensure that there are enough law officers on hand to control traffic jams, among other effects of the rally.
Ritzheimer’s group - Freedom of Speech Rally 2
- is planning to hold the rally at 6:15 p.m. outside the Phoenix Islamic Community Center, which is located close to a Denny’s restaurant. As of the morning hours on May 29, preparations for the rally and law enforcement response have caused disruptions for local schools and businesses in the immediate area. At least one school official expressed the fear that there could be gun play. Some media outlets have identified some of the anticipated demonstraters as armed bikers.
A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Imraan Siddiqi, indicated his fear of possible violence. "Recently the mosques here in Phoenix actually received threatening letters -- very specific threats, saying that we are going to massacre your congregations," he said.
For its part, the Facebook page for Ritzheimer’s group encouraged participants to exercise their right to bear arms. "People are also encouraged to utilize (their) second amendment right at this event just (in case) our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack," the event's Facebook page declared.
Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona said of the event, "Of course I'm a believer in free speech and the First Amendment. I'm also a believer in good judgment and common sense."
It was at a “Draw Muhammed” contest in Garland TX, similar to one planned for the Phoenix rally, that two Muslim terrorists attacked a gathering headlined by activist Pamela Gellar. At that event, the two assailants were killed by a heroic Texas police officer. The pair of terrorists - Elton Simpton and Nadir Soofi – were from Phoenix and worshiped at the Phoenix Islamic Community Center before traveling to Garland.
As of 12 noon EST May 29, 989 people signed up to attend the rally.
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